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GIVING PARENTS A CHOICE WOULD IMPROVE SCHOOLS

In a recent News article about for-profit schools, Orchard Park School Superintendent Charles Stoddart stated: "You have to put your faith in the people who say they can deliver the program. If they can't, they better get out of business fast."

Until our public schools can also go "out of business fast" our public educational system professionals will not be held accountable. Other professionals and private-sector employees cannot ignore their customers or they suffer financially.

Almost 20 years ago, when the first of my four children entered the Orchard Park schools, I put my faith in the system. While I am indebted to many outstanding teachers and administrators, my faith began to erode as I noticed little homework and in some cases a serious lack of focus on the basics.

My concerns eventually led me to our superintendent, who told me I was in a very small minority in wanting more homework. Most parents wanted less, he said, and if more homework were given more aides would have to be hired to help with the additional workload.

I wish over the years that I had kept track of how many parents told me they had the exact same concern. Future discussions with teachers and administrators ended in my being told that I did not know what was best for my children.

My frustration led to the formation of the Orchard Park Citizens Group, which sought change through the political process. We succeeded in getting all seven candidates elected to the School Board. But they soon found out it was a daily battle against the administration and teachers' union to accomplish anything the educators did not want to happen. The reality is that our elected, part-time board members are practically powerless.

Our questions on course substance were criticized and ignored. Our request for a strict no-drug policy was met with: "There are no drugs in the Orchard Park School system."

Our concern that the children in the middle were being forgotten was countered with: We educate more of the children to a higher standard than they do in Europe (not true). Our pleas for fiscal constraint on wages fell on deaf ears. And we were verbally attacked by teacher union representatives.

Until parents have a choice, we will continue to be ignored by administrators and teachers' unions, and our children will continue to receive less than we need, deserve and pay for.

THOMAS P. CASEY

Orchard Park

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